ESTABLISHING A STRONGER, MORE EFFICIENT, AND MORE RESPONSIBLE POLITICAL STRUCTURE

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ESTABLISHING A STRONGER, MORE EFFICIENT, AND MORE RESPONSIBLE POLITICAL STRUCTURE

Topic |  
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boholano-thumbby Jose “Pepe” Abueva

This is the topic I am asked to discuss as one of the seven challenges to be tackled in Securing the Country’s Future: A Summit for Change– to be held on 22 July at Club Filipino in San Juan, Metro Manila.

According to the initiators of A Summit for Change, it “aims to gather some of the country’s best minds to forge a consensus on the need to change the 1987 Constitution through a Constitutional Convention to secure our future as a nation.”

This Summit for Change is initiated by a new advocacy and movement called Bagong Sistema, Bagong Pagasa: A Call for System Change. This is headed by retired Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno. Its purpose is to address pressing problems and challenges and arrest our decline into a “fragile or failing state.”

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I am delighted to be one of the seven resource persons of the “Summit for Change” because I have long focused on the urgent need for basic changes in the structure and institutions of our political system by amending our 1987 Constitution.

Basic need to change particular political institutions, but not to write a whole new Constitution. I believe we need to amend only certain key provisions of our 1987 Constitution, such as those on political dynasties, elections, political parties; on changing our presidential government to a parliamentary government, and changing our highly centralized unitary system to a federal system; on the provisions on foreign participation in our economy and public utilities; and on a new Bill of Duties to complement Article III. Bill of Rights.

The 1987 Constitution is ideal and lofty in its Vision for our nation-state: the Republic of the Philippines. This is why I strongly believe we should preserve this Vision that is loftily and broadly stated in these words of the Preamble: “We the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane society; and establish a Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations; promote the common good; conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality and peace, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution.” 

The vision is articulated further in Article II. Declaration of Principles and State Policies; Article III. Bill of Rights; Article IV. Citizenship; Article V. Suffrage; Article XI. Accountability of Public Officers; Article XII. National Economy and Patrimony; Article III. Social Justice and Human Rights; Article XIV. Education, Science and Technology, Arts, Culture, and Sports; Article XV. The Family; and in some sections in Article XVI. General Provisions.

So I disagree with the proposal to change the 1987 Constitution through a constitutional convention that is presumed to write yet another Constitution less than 30 years afterwards. Let’s remember that President Ferdinand E. Marcos captured the unfinished 1971 Constitutional Convention soon after he declared martial law in 1972. This enabled him to impose his authoritarian regime in the 1973 Marcos Constitution that lasted until February 25, 1986. It extended his presidency over 20 years; instead of only eight years under the 1935 Constitution.

Here are my proposed amendments on the structures and institutions of our Republic.

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Amendment on “political dynasties.” Article II. Section 26 provides: “The State shall

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guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.” Because so many families have formed “political dynasties” to monopolize elected public offices, elected representatives and senators and the President himself or herself have failed to define by law what are “political dynasties” until now.

This was a glaring error or failure of the framers of the 1987 Constitution to leave it to elected legislators and the elected President to define the prohibited “political dynasties.” So a particular constitutional amendment to Article II. Section 26 must be made. This shall explicitly define what degree of consanguinity and/or affinity among “political dynasties” is prohibited by the Constitution itself.

Amendment on local elections. The 1987 Constitution shortened the previous term of four years to three years for elected local government officers. A three-year term is too short for the incumbents. It increases the cost of running for local office and the temptation to make money in office. A decision should also be made on the new limit of holding local public office to ensure equal access to opportunities for local public service.   Amendment on political parties. In advanced democracies political parties are expected to have a political ideology, a platform of policies and reforms, members’ duties and obligations, and accountability for the conduct and performance as a political party, and as members of the political party. Political parties may also be entitled to a State subsidy.

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Amendment on changing our Presidential Government to a Parliamentary Government.

By definition Parliament is vested with both legislative and executive powers. A unicameral Parliament is recommended.

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In a Parliamentary Government, also known as “Party Government,” most Members of Parliament (MPs) are elected as registered members of their respective political parties. They shall be committed by law and practice to their party’s ideals and program of government. Voters shall vote for an individual candidate for MP in their parliamentary district and also for the political party those candidates represent. Some seats in Parliament are reserved for the various political parties in proportion to their share of the total votes cast.

 “Checks and balance” within the Parliament is exercised in the relations between the majority party and the opposition parties; and in the regular “question hour” when the Government responds to the questions and challenges of the opposition MPs. Interacting with the Government and Parliament are other centers of countervailing powers: business, interest groups, the media, civil society organizations, as well as multi-national and foreign interests.

Parliament shall have as many members as may be provided by law. To begin with, Parliament shall have as many elected members as the present district representatives of the House of Representatives.

Other than the MPs who are elected in the parliamentary districts, Parliament shall also have MPs chosen by the political parties on the basis of “Proportional Representation” (PR), or according to their respective share of the total votes cast nationwide in the parliamentary election. For this purpose 30 percent of the total seats in Parliament shall be reserved for the political parties on the basis of PR. In our Global Filipino Nation, Filipino citizens overseas shall be entitled to representation in Parliament.

Members of Parliament shall be elected, or chosen by the political parties, for a term of five years, with no term limits. Candidates for MP must have a college degree as proposed in regional consultations on Charter change.

The Prime Minister shall exercise the executive power as the Head of Government. He is elected by a majority of all the MPs. He is normally the leader of the majority party in Parliament. As the Head of the Government, the Prime Minister is assisted by his Cabinet of Ministers, at least three-fourths of whom shall be elected MPs.

From among its MPs, the Parliament elects the President who is the Head of State. Upon election the President shall cease to be an MP and a member of any political party. He has a term of five years.

Amendment to change our highly centralized unitary system to a federal system. We have made a great deal of progress towards a federal-parliamentary democracy under the proposed basic law on the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. If Congress passes this basic law essentially as it is, President B.S. will surely sign it. This will contain much of the needed additional amendments to establish the other autonomous regions and local governments towards a Federal Republic of the Philippines. I have a Primer on this constitutional amendment.

Amendment on the provisions on foreign participation in our economy and education.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte has drafted this amendment that can be adopted with necessary changes.

Amendment on a new Bill of Duties to complement Article III. Bill of Rights.

The Citizens Party of the Philippines: Partido ng Tunay na Demokrasya has a draft of my proposed Bill of Duties to complement the Bill of Rights in the 1987 Constitution.

My email is pepevabueva@gmail.com

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